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New York Times Bestsellers
Week of March 29, 2020
FICTION
#1  (Last Week: 2 • Weeks on List: 81)  
Where The Crawdads Sing
Book Jacket   Delia Owens
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780593103036 Owens (The Eye of the Elephant: An Epic Adventure in the African Wilderness), an experienced nature writer, puts her background to good use in her debut novel. Her descriptions of the Carolina coastal marsh add vibrancy to this story of Kya Clark, known as the Marsh Girl, who has survived alone there for years. Kya's story is intertwined with a 1969 murder mystery in which Kya is the chief suspect. The nature writing is lyrical, and narrator Cassandra Campbell does it justice. Unfortunately, the somewhat implausible mystery plot does not measure up to the quality of the nature prose, but the characters will keep listeners engaged. -Verdict A selection of Reese Witherspoon's book club, this should be a popular addition for most fiction collections despite its flaws.-Cynthia Jensen, Gladys Harrington Lib., Plano, TX © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A wild child's isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder."The Marsh Girl," "swamp trash"Catherine "Kya" Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband's beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya's fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl's collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya's coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man's body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, "star quarterback and town hot shot," who was once Kya's lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel's weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymatha published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.Despite some distractions, there's an irresistible charm to Owens' first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780735219090 In Owens's evocative debut, Kya Clark is a young woman growing up practically on her own in the wild marshes outside Barkley Cove, a small coastal community in North Carolina. In 1969, local lothario Chase Andrews is found dead, and Kya, now 23 and known as the "Marsh Girl," is suspected of his murder. As the local sheriff and his deputy gather evidence against her, the narrative flashes back to 1952 to tell Kya's story. Abandoned at a young age by her mother, she is left in the care of her hard-drinking father. Unable to fit in at school, Kya grows up ignorant until a shrimper's son, Tate Walker, befriends her and teaches her how to read. After Tate goes off to college, Kya meets Chase, with whom she begins a tempestuous relationship. The novel culminates in a long trial, with Kya's fate hanging in the balance. Kya makes for an unforgettable heroine. Owens memorably depicts the small-town drama and courtroom theatrics, but perhaps best of all is her vivid portrayal of the singular North Carolina setting. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780735219090 Owens' (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006) first novel is a leisurely, lyrical tale of a young woman growing up in isolation in the 1950s and 60s, in a marsh on the North Carolina coast. Kya is abandoned by her troubled mother when she is only six. Soon after, her four, much-older siblings leave, as does her alcoholic father a couple of years later. As Kya matures and teaches herself to be a naturalist, she is torn between two slightly older boys: kind, observant Tate and rascally, attractive Chase. Chase dies falling from a fire tower in his twenties, and the investigation of his possible murder, which alternates with the story of Kya's coming-of-age, provides much of the novel's suspense. Because the characters are painted in broad, unambiguous strokes, this is not so much a naturalistic novel as a mythic one, with its appeal rising from Kya's deep connection to the place where she makes her home, and to all of its creatures.--Margaret Quamme Copyright 2018 Booklist
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#2  (Last Week: - • Weeks on List: 1)  
The Boy From The Woods
Book Jacket   Harlan Coben
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781538748145 Found as a child living untrammeled in the woods with no memory of his past, the appropriately named Wilde has returned there to live as an adult after being raised in foster care. He's happiest by himself, but his outdoorsy skills are being tapped by celebrity TV lawyer Hester Crimstein as one teenager and then another goes missing. Journalists and creepy security experts soon come calling, and Wilde must uncover—and survive—a terrible secret. From a thriller giant.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Coben's latest darkest-suburbs thriller sets a decidedly offbeat detective on the trail of a crime with overtones unmistakably redolent of once and future presidential elections.Wilde is called Wilde because nobody's known his real name from the moment a pair of hikers found him foraging for himself in Ramapo Mountain State Forest 24 years ago. Now over 40, he's had experience as both a lost boy and a private investigator. That makes him an obvious person to help when his godson, Sweet Water High School student Matthew Crimstein, expresses concern to his grandmother, attorney Hester Crimstein, that his bullied classmate Naomi Pine has gone missing. Matthew doesn't really want anyone to help. He doesn't even want anyone to notice his agitation. But Hester, taking the time from her criminal defense of financial consultant Simon Greene (Run Away, 2019) to worm the details out of him, asks Wilde to lend a hand, and sure enough, Wilde, unearthing an unsavory backstory that links Naomi to bullying classmate Crash Maynard, whose TV producer father, Dash Maynard, is close friends with reality TV star-turned-presidential hopeful Rusty Eggers, finds Naomi hale and hearty. Everything's hunky-dory for one week, and then she disappears again. And this time, so does Crash after a brief visit to Matthew in which he tearfully confesses his guilt about the bad stuff he did to Naomi. This second disappearance veers into more obviously criminal territory with the arrival of a ransom note that demands, not money, but the allegedly incriminating videotapes of Rusty Eggers that Dash and Delia Maynard have had squirreled away for 30 years. The tapes link Rusty to a forgotten and forgettable homicide and add a paranoid new ripped-from-the-headlines dimension to the author's formidable range. Readers who can tune out all the subplots will find the kidnappers easy to spot, but Coben finds room for three climactic surprises, one of them a honey.Now that Coben's added politics to his heady brew, expect sex and religion to join the mix. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781538748145 This subpar thriller from Edgar winner Coben (the Myron Bolitar series) pairs an improbable lead with an improbable plot. In 1986, a boy, who looks to be between six and eight years old, is found living on his own in the woods near Westville, N.J. Flash forward 34 years. The boy is now known simply as Wilde, “a beautiful man with his dark sun-kissed complexion, his build of coiled muscles, his forearms looking like high tension wires.” Wilde is also a genius and a brilliant PI. His detective skills are called upon after his late best friend’s mother, celebrity lawyer Hester Crimstein, learns from her teenage grandson that a bullied classmate of her grandson, Naomi Pine, has disappeared from her Westville home. Naomi’s father falsely claims that his daughter went to visit her mother, raising suspicions of foul play. Naomi’s story is somehow connected with the presidential aspirations of Sen. Rusty Eggers, a nihilistic tyrant viewed by some on the left as even more of a threat to America than Donald Trump, a hard-to-swallow plotline that Coben does nothing to make feel plausible. This gifted author is capable of better. 7-city author tour. Agent: Lisa Erbach Vance, Aaron M. Priest Literary. (Mar.)
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#3  (Last Week: 4 • Weeks on List: 9)  
American Dirt
 Jeanine Cummins
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781250209764 In a book both timely and prodigiously readable, Cummins (The Crooked Branch) offers an unrelenting and terrifyingly you-are-there account of a Mexican mother and son fleeing to America after cartel violence takes their entire family. Lydia had been comfortably running a bookstore in Acapulco, but cartel violence is escalating, and the charming customer with whom she's become friendly turns out to be the jefe of the newest, cruelest cartel in town. When he's also the subject of her journalist husband's latest reveal-all profile, vengeance is swift, which puts Lydia and Luca on the run by bus and van, in migrant shelters, on top of a train, and, finally, in the remote and blazing American Southwest. Cummins expertly balances the brutality of the cartel, its scary omniscience, and Lydia's ululating fear with Lydia's passionate commitment to Luca's survival and the numerous small, brave acts of kindness she encounters that speed this duo north. VERDICT Here, it's the journey rather than the arrival on American dirt that counts, and readers will wonder whether they could ever have survived such a trek even as they realize that this could happen to them. An important book. [See Prepub Alert, 7/15/19.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781250209764 With this devastating yet hopeful work, Cummins (The Crooked Branch) breathes life into the statistics of the thousands fleeing their homelands and seeking to cross the southern border of the United States. By mere chance, Lydia Quixano Pérez and her eight-year-old son, Luca, survive the massacre of the rest of her family at her niece’s quinceañera by sicarios of the Los Jardineros cartel in Acapulco. Compounding the horror of the violence and loss is the fact that the cartel’s leader is a man that Lydia unwittingly befriended in her bookstore. Lydia and Luca flee north to the only refuge that she can imagine: her uncle’s family in Denver. North of Mexico City, all other sources of transportation become impossible, so mother and son must risk traveling atop La Bestia, the freight trains that are the only way to reach the border without being seen. They befriend two beautiful sisters—Soledad, 15, who is “a living miracle of splendor,” and Rebeca, 14—who have fled life-threatening circumstances in Honduras. As the quartet travel, they face terror on a constant basis, with danger possible from any encounter, but also compassion and occasionally even wonder. This extraordinary novel about unbreakable determination will move the reader to the core. (Jan.)
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781250209764 All's well for Lydia Quixano Perez, who runs a bookstore in Acapulco while raising beloved son Luca, until her journalist husband writes a reveal-all profile of the jefe of the newest drug cartel brutalizing the city. For safety, she and her family are forced to flee north, trying to get onto "American dirt"—but what will life be like for them when they arrive? Starting to buzz; a ten-city author tour.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. This terrifying and tender novel is a blunt answer to the question of why immigrants from Latin America cross the U.S. borderand a testimony to the courage it takes to do it.Cummins (The Crooked Branch, 2013, etc.) opens this propulsive novel with a massacre. In a pleasant Acapulco neighborhood, gunmen slaughter 16 people at a family barbecue, from a grandmother to the girl whose quinceaera they are celebrating. The only survivors are Lydia, a young mother, and her 8-year-old son, Luca. She knows they must escape, fast and far. Lydia's husband, Sebastin, is among the dead; he was a fearless journalist whose coverage of the local cartel, Los Jardineros, is the reason los sicarios were sent, as the sign fastened to his dead chest makes clear. Lydia knows there is more to it, that her friendship with a courtly older man who has become her favorite customer at the small bookstore she runs is a secret key, and that she and her son are marked for death. Cummins does a splendid job of capturing Lydia's and Luca's numb shock and then panic in the aftermath of the shootings, then their indomitable will to survive and reach el norteany place they might go in Mexico is cartel territory, and any stranger might be an assassin. She vividly recounts their harrowing travels for more than 1,000 miles by bus, atop a lethally dangerous freight train, and finally on foot across the implacable Sonoran Desert. Peril and brutality follow them, but they also encounter unexpected generosity and heroism. Lydia and Luca are utterly believable characters, and their breathtaking journey moves with the velocity and power of one of those freight trains.Intensely suspenseful and deeply humane, this novel makes migrants seeking to cross the southern U.S. border indelibly individual. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9781250209764 Lydia Perez's life is not extraordinary; she is a bookstore owner with a husband and eight-year-old son, Luca, in Acapulco. When cartel jefe Javier Fuentes has her entire extended family killed while Lydia and Luca are fortuitously hiding in a bathroom, Lydia realizes they must leave Mexico immediately or be killed when Javier finds out she is still alive. Luca, confused but trusting in his mother, embarks with her on an odyssey to the north, joining other migrants trying to make it to the U.S. border. What they see along the way will bring readers both heartbreak and hope, pain and promise. While Cummins alternates points of view, Luca's voice in particular sings with innocent optimism in the face of a series of near misses. The journey towards the prospect of safety is not only that of Luca and Lydia but of many other migrants, and complex secondary characters serve as both warnings and signs of possibility. Beautiful, straightforward language drives home the point that migration to safer places is not a political issue but a human one. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: With a story line sure to be much discussed this election year plus a film in the works American Dirt may be the don't-miss book of 2020.--Tracy Babiasz Copyright 2019 Booklist
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#4  (Last Week: 1 • Weeks on List: 2)  
The Mirror & The Light
 Hilary Mantel
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780805096606 In this wrap-up to Mantel's trilogy on the life of Thomas Cromwell, begun with the Booker Prize winners Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, Anne Boleyn has been separated from her head, and the blacksmith's son from Putney is sitting pretty. But not for long: rebels rouse in England, traitors scheme abroad, invasion remains a constant threat, and Henry VIII's third wife dies delivering his much-wanted son. Henry might demand loyalty, but he's loyal to no one, so Cromwell must watch his back. Obviously, great expectations for this book, its predecessors having have sold five million copies worldwide.
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#5  (Last Week: - • Weeks on List: 1)  
Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker
Book Jacket   Rae Carson
#6  (Last Week: - • Weeks on List: 1)  
Smoke Bitten
Book Jacket   Patricia Briggs
 
#7  (Last Week: 11 • Weeks on List: 2)  
In Five Years
 Rebecca Serle
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781982137441 Serle’s bewitching story of love and friendship (after The Dinner List) centers on a young woman who plans her life down to the minute until fate gets in the way. At 28, Dannie Kohan lives happily with her boyfriend, David, in a Manhattan apartment and is poised to land her dream job as a lawyer at a top firm. Dannie expects to get married by the time she’s 30; right on track, David proposes, giving Dannie a ring picked out by her best friend Bella. After accepting the proposal, Dannie slips into a deep sleep and dreams of an alternate future, where everything is off-kilter. In her dream, it’s the year 2025 and she lives with a man named Aaron Gregory. Upon waking, Dannie begins to second-guess her regimented course, and as the years pass, she puts off the marriage. On a rainy day in June 2025, she meets up with Bella, now a successful art dealer, and is stunned to find her accompanied by Aaron, the man from her dream. She senses a mutual recognition, and, after Bella receives devastating news, Dannie and Aaron grow closer. While the plot hinges on well-worn tropes, the deadpan prose highlights the author’s keen sense of irony. Serle’s whimsical tale is book club catnip. (Mar.)This review has been updated to remove a spoiler.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781982137441 A YA author and television writer whose adult debut, The Dinner List, was a LibraryReads pick, Searle introduces us to hard-charging lawyer Dannie Cohan, who's just accepted a new job and her boyfriend's proposal. That night, she's hardly dwelling on the standard interview question—where she wants to be in five years. But she goes to bed in 2020 and awakens in 2025 with a different man in a different apartment, then jolts back to her old life and wonders what is happening. With a 200,000-copy first printing.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781982137441 Searle's second novel (The Dinner List) ponders the question: Where do you see yourself in five years? Dannie Kohan is a corporate lawyer with an orderly life. She knows the right time to focus on work, get engaged, or buy a condo. But one night she wakes up five years into the future, glimpsing a life completely altered. She meets the man in her vision four years later—he's her best friend's boyfriend—and desperately tries to shift the trajectory of what she thinks is about to happen. But the author throws in a big twist: The story is about life, love, friendship, fate, and free will, and what Dannie experienced five years earlier isn't as clear as she'd thought. The turmoil of Dannie's love life and, more important, her friendship with best friend Bella, shape this tale of a driven, logical woman faced with emotions she's never felt before. VERDICT The story has a strong New York setting and sympathetic characters. Emotional hooks alongside moments of humor and self-awareness will remind readers of Jojo Moyes's Me Before You or Taylor Jenkins Reid's Maybe in Another Life. [See Prepub Alert, 9/16/19.]—Melanie Kindrachuk, Stratford P.L., Ont.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. After acing a job interview and accepting a marriage proposal, Dannie Kohan has had the perfect day. That is, until she awakens to find herself five years in the future with a completely different man.Just one hour in that alternate reality shakes Dannie to her core. After all, highly ambitious Dannie and her boyfriend, David, have plotted out their lives in minute detail, and the sexy man in her dreamwas it a dream?is most certainly not in the script. Serle (The Dinner List, 2018) deftly spins these magical threads into Dannie's perfectly structured life, leaving not only Dannie, but also the reader wondering whether Dannie time traveled or hallucinated. Her best friend, Bella, would delight in the story given that she thinks Dannie is much too straight-laced, and some spicy dreaming might push Dannie to find someone more passionate than David. Unfortunately, glamorous Bella is in Europe with her latest lover. Ever pragmatic, Dannie consults her therapist, who almost concurs that it was likely a dream, and throws herself into her work. Pleased to have landed the job at a prestigious law firm, Dannie easily loses her worries in litigation. Soon four and a half years have passed with no wedding date set, and Bella is back in the U.S. with a new man in her life. A man who turns out to be literally the man of Dannie's dream. The sheer fact of Aaron Gregory's existence forces Dannie to reevaluate her trust in the laws of physics as well as her decision to marry David, a decision that seems less believable with each passing day. And as the architecture of Dannie's overplanned life disintegrates, Serle twists and twines the remnants of her dream into a surprising future.A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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#8  (Last Week: 9 • Weeks on List: 4)  
Blindside
 James Patterson and James O Born
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780316420334 The daughter of New York's mayor is missing, and Det. Michael Bennett's son is in jail. So they agree to trade help, with Michael investigating a homicide victim tied to both the computer-smart daughter and an ambitious hacking operation. The string of nasty murders that follows eventually affects national security, complicating matters by bringing in the NYPD, the FBI, and global crime. With a 450,000-copy first printing.
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#9  (Last Week: 3 • Weeks on List: 2)  
Journey Of The Pharaohs
Book Jacket   Clive Cussler and Graham Brown
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780593083086 Bestseller Cussler’s lively 17th NUMA Files novel (after 2018’s Sea of Greed, also with Brown) finds Kurt Austin, the director of special projects for the U.S. government’s National Underwater and Marine Agency, on the coast of Scotland, where he and sidekick Joe Zavala witness a trawler smashing against the rocks. Kurt and Joe rescue the crew and pull fragments of a stone tablet with Egyptian hieroglyphics from the sinking boat, along with a logbook from 1927 kept by a transatlantic pilot who crashed in Spain. Some murderous artifact smugglers, who belong to an organization called the Bloodstone Group, want these relics back. When interpreted by a British professor, these discoveries lead Kurt and Joe and their new partner, MI5 agent Morgan Manning, on a chase across Europe to America, where they end up in a treasure-filled cave in the Grand Canyon with Bloodstone agents hot on their heels. The twist ending fits neatly into the Cussler canon. Series fans will be pleased. Agent: Peter Lampack, Peter Lampack Agency. (Mar.)
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#10  (Last Week: 6 • Weeks on List: 2)  
My Dark Vanessa
Book Jacket   Kate Elizabeth Russell
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. The #MeToo movement forces a struggling young woman to confront the abusive relationship that defines her sexual and romantic past.At 15, Vanessa Wye falls for her English teacher at Browick, a private boarding school. Jacob Strane is 42, "big, broad, and so tall that his shoulders hunch as though his body wants to apologize for taking up so much space." Strane woos Vanessa with Nabokov's novels, Plath's poetry, and furtive caresses in his back office. "I think we're very similar, Nessa," Strane tells her during a one-on-one conference. "I can tell from the way you write that you're a dark romantic like me." Soon, Vanessa is reveling in her newfound power of attraction, pursuing sleepovers at Strane's house, and conducting what she feels is a secret affair right under the noses of the administration. More than 15 years later, at the height of the #MeToo movement, Taylor Birch, another young woman from Browick, publicly accuses Strane of sexual abuse. When a young journalist reaches out to Vanessa to corroborate Taylor's story, Vanessa's world begins to unravel. "Because even if I sometimes use the word abuse to describe certain things that were done to me, in someone else's mouth the word turns ugly and absolute....It swallows me and all the times I wanted it, begged for it," Vanessa tells herself. Russell weaves Vanessa's memories of high school together with the social media-saturated callout culture of the present moment, as Vanessa struggles to determine whether the love story she has told about herself is, in fact, a tragedy of unthinkable proportions. Russell's debut is a rich psychological study of the aftermath of abuse, and her novel asks readers both to take Vanessa's assertions of agency at face value and to determine the real, psychological harm perpetrated against her by an abusive adult. What emerges is a devastating cultural portrait of enablement and the harm we allow young women to shoulder. "The excuses we make for them are outrageous," Vanessa concludes about abusive men, "but they're nothing compared with the ones we make for ourselves."A gut-wrenching debut. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780062941503 In the year 2000, high-school sophomore Vanessa returns to her Maine boarding school, Browick, still deflated from last year's falling-out with her best friend. Encouraged to pick up an extracurricular activity, she joins the creative-writing club helmed by her English teacher, Mr. Strane. Soon he is just Strane, a fortysomething man who compliments her poems and the color of her hair, introduces her to Lolita and Poe's ""Annabel Lee,"" and touches her knee when no one's looking. She falls for him, hard. In the other time line in Russell's debut, it's 2017, Vanessa is working in a hotel, and a younger Browick alum has just publicly accused Strane of sexual misconduct while she was a student. A bomb dropped halfway through the novel impacts both story lines significantly. Narrating in present tense, Vanessa is easy to sympathize with, and her story is hard to stop reading. On another level, Russell realistically portrays how this sort of thing could happen Strane's diabolical manipulation, Vanessa's confused love even as Vanessa can't see it or understand how it hurts her. Empathetic, incendiary, and discussable.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: With dozens of international rights sold and a massive publicity campaign, this is being touted as a defining novel of the #MeToo era.--Annie Bostrom Copyright 2019 Booklist
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780062941503 DEBUT At age 15, Vanessa had a relationship with her 42-year-old English teacher, Jacob Strane, who claims to love her for her emotional intelligence and creative writing abilities. At least that's what she tells us nearly two decades later, when another student has called out Strane for their sexual activity and starts a social media firestorm. It also starts Vanessa thinking. She had always believed that she and Strane shared true love and defends him now against this student's so-called lies, but what really happened? Vanessa must decide whether she was a victim or willing participant, which of course raises the question of how willing you can be at age 15 in an unequal power relationship. As Vanessa slowly unpacks what happened, we see her youthful and ongoing denial, the impact of events on her still unsure self, how sedulous Strane was in drawing her in, how unabashed he remains, how much she needed and still needs to believe they had something special, and how she still takes Strane as a measure. VERDICT A deeply relevant debut that the author has been writing since age 16, drawing on her own experiences, and the reading enlightens even as it chills. [See Prepub Alert, 7/1/19.]—Donna Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Grand Junction, CO
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780062941503 Russell offers readers an introspective narrative that fully captures the complexity and necessity of the #MeToo movement in her powerful debut. In the year 2000, Vanessa Wye is a lonely sophomore at Maine’s Browick boarding school. The academically gifted 15-year-old professes not to mind her solitude, especially when her 42-year-old English teacher, Jacob Strane, begins to pay attention to her, remarking on her red hair and fashion sense, and lending her some of his favorite books—including Nabokov’s Lolita. Almost before Vanessa realizes what’s happening, the two have embarked on a sexual relationship, and Vanessa is convinced she’s been singled out as someone truly special—until, under threat of exposure, their relationship begins to go off the rails. Seventeen years later, Vanessa is still occasionally in contact with Jacob, but their relationship has grown tense, as another former student has gone public about his inappropriate advances. Russell’s novel, alternating between past and present, presents a damning indictment of sexual predation, as she starkly elucidates the ways in which abuse robbed Vanessa not only of her childhood but also of her own once-promising future. It also prompts readers to interrogate their own assumptions about victimhood, consent, and agency. This is a frighteningly sharp debut. Agent: Hillary Jacobson, ICM Partners. (Jan.)
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NONFICTION
#1  (Last Week: 1 • Weeks on List: 2)  
Untamed
 Glennon Doyle
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781984801258 Motivational speaker Doyle (Love Warrior) writes of divorcing her husband, finding love with Olympic soccer player Abby Wambach, and coming out to family and fans in this inspirational memoir. Doyle's previous book concerned her attempt to heal her strained relationship with her husband, Craig, after she learned he cheated on her, and here she picks up the narrative a few years later, as she starts fresh with the attitude that it’s better to disappoint other people than to disappoint oneself. She talks about meeting Abby, while still married to Craig, at a book conference and instantly falling for her (“I put my hand on her arm. Electrical currents”), dissolving her marriage and raising her three kids in a blended family with Abby and Craig, and pulling back from her Christian faith. “I will not stay, not ever again—in a room or conversation or relationship or institution that requires me to abandon myself,” Doyle declares. The book is filled with hopeful messages and encourages women to reject the status quo and follow their intuition. “It’s a lifelong battle for a woman to stay whole and free in a world hell bent on caging her,” she writes. This testament to female empowerment and self-love, with an endearing coming-out story at the center, will delight readers. (Mar.)
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. "Four years ago," she writes, "married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman." That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections"Caged," "Keys," "Freedom"the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author's girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a "caged girl made for wide-open skies." She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into "drinking, drugging, and purging," Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she'd been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband's infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she'd never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she's admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of "cream cheese parenting," which is about "giving your children the best of everything." The author's fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle's therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a "dangerous distraction." Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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#2  (Last Week: 2 • Weeks on List: 4)  
The Splendid And The Vile
 Erik Larson
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. The bestselling author deals with one of the most satisfying good-vs.-evil battles in history, the year (May 1940 to May 1941) during which Churchill and Britain held off Hitler.Bookshelves groan with histories of Britain's finest hour, but Larson (Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, 2015, etc.) employs a mildly unique strategy, combining an intense, almost day-to-day account of Churchill's actions with those of his family, two of his officials (Frederick Lindemann, who was Churchill's prime science adviser, and Lord Beaverbrook, minister of air production), and staff, including private secretary Jock Colville and bodyguard Walter Thompson. Since no one doubted they lived in extraordinary times and almost everyone kept journals and wrote letters, the author takes full advantage of an avalanche of material, much of which will be unfamiliar to readers. Churchill remains the central figure; his charisma, public persona, table talk, quirks, and sybaritic lifestyle retain their fascination. Authors have not ignored his indispensable wife, Clementine (Sonia Purnell's 2015 biography is particularly illuminating), but even history buffs will welcome Larson's attention to their four children, especially Mary, a perky adolescent and his favorite. He makes no attempt to rehabilitate Winston's only son, Randolph, a heavy-drinking spendthrift whose long-suffering wife, Pamela, finally consoled herself with a long affair with American representative Averell Harriman, which was no secret to the family and was entirely approved. Britain's isolation ended when Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, but Larson ends on May 10. The Blitz was in full swing, with a particularly destructive raid on London, but that day also saw Rudolf Hess, Hitler's second in command, fly to England and engage in a wacky attempt (planned since the previous autumn) to negotiate peace. Nothing came of Hess' action, but that day may also have marked the peak of the Blitz, which soon diminished as Germany concentrated its forces against the Soviet Union.A captivating history of Churchill's heroic year, with more than the usual emphasis on his intimates. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780385348713 New York Times best-selling author Larson here investigates Winston Churchill as leader in the early days of World War II. Drawing on intelligence reports, recently declassified files, and personal diaries only now made available, Larson presents not just Churchill but those in his immediate circle, from his family to private secretary John Colville and newspaper baron Lord Beaverbrook.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780385348713 In this illuminating history, best-selling writer Larson (Dead Wake) offers context for and understanding of Britain's defense against Hitler's Germany under Winston Churchill's leadership during World War II. Focusing on a single year (May 1940-May 1941), which coincided with Churchill's appointment as Prime Minister, Larson presents a near-daily account through a combination of diary and journal entries, archives, and new reports from Churchill's family, including his wife Clementine and his children, as well as officials from Britain, Germany, and the United States. The picture he paints unearths the intimate details of Churchill's family and cabinet, leadership style, personality, and idiosyncrasies, all of which laid the foundation for his determination to unite Britain during this national emergency while also navigating the monumental task of keeping the United States and President Roosevelt close at hand. VERDICT Blending a gripping narrative and a well-researched examination of personal and news archives, Larson's distinctive history of Britain's "darkest hour" offers a new angle for those already familiar with this era, while attracting readers who wish to learn more about the notable leader. [See Prepub Alert, 9/9/19.]—David Miller, Farmville P.L., NC
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#3  (Last Week: 4 • Weeks on List: 14)  
The Mamba Mentality
Book Jacket   Kobe Bryant
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. The future NBA Hall of Famer explores his process and craft.Love him or hate himthere seems to be little sentiment in betweenformer Los Angeles Lakers star Bryant is one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He was always known for his laser-sharp focus, exacting preparation, diligent attention to details, and extreme competitiveness, and all of those qualities are on display in this photo-heavy look back on his career. The key word is "career," as the author provides almost no biographical detail unrelated to basketballwhich is probably appropriate given that he has displayed little interest in anything beyond the game. Conveyed via short, no-nonsense snippets and accompanying photos on nearly every page, the narrative, such as it is, reflects Bryant's commitment to the game. From training to practice to recovery to mental preparation to highly technical descriptions of his mechanicsand those of his opponentshe delves into it all. The book will appeal to die-hard basketball fans intrigued by one of the game's brightest minds, but the structure is somewhat haphazard and may lose general readers. The real stars here are the stunning photographs (at least one on every page, with many double-page spreads), all taken by Andrew D. Bernstein, the longtime Lakers official photographer. Each photo effectively demonstrates what Bryant is discussing, and some feature hand-drawn embellishments by the author, showing the angle and direction of a pass or cut or some other element of a particular play. Bryant also delivers capsule assessments of many of his teammates, opponents, and coaches over the years: "Pau [Gasol] was my favorite teammate ever"; "Phil Jackson was more than just a coachhe was a visionary"; "Tex Winter was a basketball genius"; "Jerry West and I had a father-son type of relationship"; Lamar Odom "was the cool-ass uncle who took care of everybody and always came through in the clutch."There's little that dedicated Kobe fans don't already know, but the book is a visually beautiful presentation that would make an ideal gift for the Lakers fan in the house. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780374201234 *Starred Review* Bryant is inarguably among the top 20 basketball players of all time: five-time champion, 18-time all-star, the list goes on. But overshadowing all the achievement is his legendary work ethic, drive, and devotion to the craft of basketball. The black mamba is the deadliest of snakes; Bryant was the deadliest of opponents. He could suck the air out of a rival's arena by leading a frenetic comeback or hitting a game-winning fadeaway jumper as the clock wound down. Bryant, the son of a former NBA player, came to his obsession early, joining the Los Angeles Lakers at just 17. The work ethic was part of his DNA. This extraordinarily beautiful book is built around the photography of Andrew D. Bernstein, the official team photographer of the Lakers and the L.A. Clippers. He took Kobe's rookie head shot and captured the rest of his career as well. The full-color shots dominate, showing Bryant at practice, in the training room, working out in the summer, and, of course, there are dozens of breathtaking game shots. Bryant's accompanying text is spare but insightful, at times elegant. He offers plenty of anecdotes about teammates and opponents, which will satisfy fans interested mainly in the memoir aspect; but what sets this book apart from the competition is Bernstein's photography. It's wonderful.--Wes Lukowsky Copyright 2018 Booklist
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#4  (Last Week: 5 • Weeks on List: 109)  
Educated
Book Jacket   Tara Westover
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780399590504 To the Westovers, public education was the quickest way to put yourself on the wrong path. By the time the author, the youngest Westover, had come along, her devout Mormon parents had pulled all of their seven children out of school, preferring to teach just the essentials: a little bit of reading, a lot of scripture, and the importance of family and a hard day's work. Westover's debut memoir details how her isolated upbringing in the mountains of Idaho led to an unexpected outcome: Cambridge, Harvard, and a PhD. Though Westover's entrance into academia is remarkable, at its heart, her memoir is a family history: not just a tale of overcoming but an uncertain elegy to the life that she ultimately rejected. Westover manages both tenderness and a savage honesty that spares no one, not even herself: nowhere is this more powerful than in her relationship with her brother Shawn, her abuser and closest friend. In its keen exploration of family, history, and the narratives we create for ourselves, Educated becomes more than just a success story.--Winterroth, Amanda Copyright 2018 Booklist
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A recent Cambridge University doctorate debuts with a wrenching account of her childhood and youth in a strict Mormon family in a remote region of Idaho.It's difficult to imagine a young woman who, in her teens, hadn't heard of the World Trade Center, the Holocaust, and virtually everything having to do with arts and popular culture. But so it was, as Westover chronicles here in fairly chronological fashion. In some ways, the author's father was a classic anti-government paranoiacwhen Y2K failed to bring the end of the world, as he'd predicted, he was briefly humbled. Her mother, though supportive at times, remained true to her beliefs about the subordinate roles of women. One brother was horrendously abusive to the author and a sister, but the parents didn't do much about it. Westover didn't go to public school and never received professional medical care or vaccinations. She worked in a junkyard with her father, whose fortunes rose and fell and rose again when his wife struck it rich selling homeopathic remedies. She remained profoundly ignorant about most things, but she liked to read. A brother went to Brigham Young University, and the author eventually did, too. Then, with the encouragement of professors, she ended up at Cambridge and Harvard, where she excelledthough she includes a stark account of her near breakdown while working on her doctoral dissertation. We learn about a third of the way through the book that she kept journals, but she is a bit vague about a few things. How, for example, did her family pay for the professional medical treatment of severe injuries that several of them experienced? Andwith some justificationshe is quick to praise herself and to quote the praise of others.An astonishing account of deprivation, confusion, survival, and success. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780399590504 Raised on a secluded family compound in Idaho, Westover was seven before realizing the biggest difference between her family and others was not their remote home, or their Mormon religion-but that "we don't go to school." Westover helped the family maintain a minimalist existence through construction, scrapping, and midwifery, no matter how many injuries she sustained. But when the author's wounds go untreated, leaving her mother mentally compromised and herself an object of abuse, cracks in her upbringing began to appear. Westover's brother Tyler is the first to leave home for college, later encouraging her to do the same. "There's a world out there, Tara...it will look a lot different once Dad is no longer whispering his view of it in your ear." Starting her academic career at Brigham Young University, Westover continued to earn academic achievements, including a PhD in history from Cambridge University. VERDICT Explicit descriptions of abuse can make for difficult reading, but for a student who started from a point of near illiteracy, Westover's writing is lyrical and literary in style. With no real comparison memoir, this joins the small number of Mormon exposés of recent years. [See "Editors' Spring Picks," p. 29.-Ed.]-Jessica Bushore, Xenia, OH © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780525528074 As the youngest of seven children born to fundamentalist parents in remote Idaho, seven-year-old Westover realized it was unusual that her siblings didn't go to school. Her father's distrust of government, education, and doctors meant Westover didn't have a birth certificate, medical records, or school records. Neglect and abuse were common, especially at the fists of one of her older brothers. Encouraged by another brother who got out, Westover begins the process of getting "educated" when she entered her first-ever classroom at 17 as a freshman at Brigham Young University. -Basic history-the Holocaust, the civil rights movement-was yet unknown to her, but she progressed to Cambridge, Harvard, and back to Cambridge for a PhD in history. Narrator Julia Whelan embodies Westover's steely almost detached resolve, maintaining modulated control even amid desperate, dangerous situations-broken bones, third-degree burns, gruesome accidents. She reserves her growls and bellows for the Westover men determined-yet who fail-to keep their women down. VERDICT A Mormon metamorphosis memoir is such a rarity that readers will undoubtedly be drawn to getting Educated. ["Explicit descriptions of abuse can make for difficult reading, but...Westover's writing is lyrical and literary in style": LJ 2/1/18 review of the Random hc.]-Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780399590504 A girl claws her way out of a claustrophobic, violent fundamentalist family into an elite academic career in this searing debut memoir. Westover recounts her upbringing with six siblings on an Idaho farm dominated by her father Gene (a pseudonym), a devout Mormon with a paranoid streak who tried to live off the grid, kept four children (including the author) out of school, refused to countenance doctors (Westover's mother, Faye, was an unlicensed midwife who sold homeopathic medicines), and stockpiled supplies and guns for the end-time. Westover was forced to work from the age of 11 in Gene's scrap and construction businesses under incredibly dangerous conditions; the grisly narrative includes lost fingers, several cases of severe brain trauma, and two horrible burns that Faye treated with herbal remedies. Thickening the dysfunction was the author's bullying brother, who physically brutalized her for wearing makeup and other immodest behaviors. When she finally escaped the toxic atmosphere of dogma, suspicion, and patriarchy to attend college and then grad school at Cambridge, her identity crisis precipitated a heartbreaking rupture. Westover's vivid prose makes this saga of the pressures of conformity and self-assertion that warp a family seem both terrifying and ordinary. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780525528050 Actor Whelan chooses a simple, straight reading of Westover's memoir about growing up in a dysfunctional, abusive fundamentalist family. It's a wise choice, partly because there are so many dramatic scenes throughout the book that it would exhaust the listener to have them dramatized, and partly because Westover portrays herself as a passive and compliant family member until the day she enters a classroom for the first time at the age of 17. Whelan creates an angry, gravelly voice for Westover's paranoid, fundamentalist Mormon father, a controlling and abusive man terrified of the influence of teachers and doctors. While preparing for the imminent end of the world, he homeschools his children and keeps them ignorant of all events outside their isolated Idaho home. Some family members are maimed by hideous accidents, and physical fights are common in the household. Still struggling with the ingrained need to be loyal to her family, Westover eventually attends college and earns a Ph.D. from Cambridge University. Whelan smoothly guides listeners through Westover's physical and emotional traumas as she powerfully conveys Westover's transform from "a wicked thing" to a scholar. A Random House hardcover. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780399590504 Raised in an alternative Mormon home in rural Idaho, Westover worked as an assistant midwife to her mother and labored in her father's junkyard. Formal schooling wasn't a priority, because her parents believed that public education was government indoctrination and that Westover's future role would be to support her husband. But her older brother's violence and their family's refusal to acknowledge problems at home resulted in the teen contemplating escape through education. Admittance to Brigham Young University was difficult. Westover taught herself enough to receive a decent score on the ACT, but because of her upbringing, she didn't understand rudimentary concepts of sanitation and etiquette, and her learning curve was steep. However, she eventually thrived, earning scholarships to Harvard and Cambridge-though she grappled with whether to include her toxic family in her new life. Born in 1986, Westover interviewed family members to help her write the first half. Her well-crafted account of her early years will intrigue teens, but the memoir's second part, covering her undergraduate and graduate experiences in the "real world," will stun them. VERDICT A gripping, intimate, sometimes shocking, yet ultimately inspiring work. Perfect for fans of memoirs about overcoming traumatic childhoods or escaping from fundamentalist religious communities, such as Jeannette Walls's The Glass Castle and Ruth Wariner's The Sound of Gravel.-Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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#5  (Last Week: 6 • Weeks on List: 7)  
Open Book
 Jessica Simpson with Kevin Carr O’Leary
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#6  (Last Week: 3 • Weeks on List: 2)  
The Gift Of Forgiveness
 Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt
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#7  (Last Week: 11 • Weeks on List: 67)  
Becoming
Book Jacket   Michelle Obama
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780525633693 Obama embodies the American dream, overcoming barriers of race, class, and gender to become one of the most influential leaders of our times. Though we stood witness to her husband’s historic ascent to become the first black U.S. president, this memoir reveals surprising, intimate details that shaped news stories and public perception. We learn how Obama struggled with the same challenges many people of color or marginalized groups face, including self-doubt—at times asking, “Am I good enough?” Yet her courage, determination, and resolve—molded by her parents, extended family, and friends—lifted her to achieve: first as an undergraduate at Princeton University, then as a law student at Harvard University, followed by her professional career in corporate law, government, and the nonprofit sector. VERDICT The audiobook may seem daunting with 19 hours of listening, but Obama’s narration moves the story quickly as it captivates. Her familiar voice personalizes the story and emotionally draws listeners deeper. The only negative for the audiobook is that it omits the photos in the print version.—Gladys Alcedo, Wallingford, CT © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781524763138 The former first lady looks back on an unlikely rise to the top while navigating issues of race and gender in this warmhearted memoir. Obama's narrative is the story of an African-American striver, born to a working-class family in a Chicago ghetto, who got Princeton and Harvard degrees and prominent jobs in law and public relations, attended at every step by the nagging question, "Am I good enough?" ("Yes I am," she answers). It's also about her struggle to keep husband Barack's high-powered political career from subsuming her identity and the placid family life she preferred to the electoral frenzy-she disavows any desire for public office herself-while she weathered misgivings over work-life balance and marital strains that required couples' counseling. Becoming the first lady ratchets up the pressure as Obama endures the Secret Service security bubble, has every public utterance and outfit attacked by opponents, gets pilloried as a closet radical, and soldiers on with healthy-food initiatives. Obama surveys most of this with calm good humor-"infuriating" Republican obstructionism and Donald Trump's "misogyny" draw her ire-while painting an admiring, sometimes romantic portrait of Barack and evoking pathos over her parents' sacrifices for their children. There are no dramatic revelations and not much overt politics here, but fans of the Obamas will find an interesting, inspiring saga of quiet social revolutions. Photos. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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#8  (Last Week: 10 • Weeks on List: 28)  
Talking To Strangers
Book Jacket   Malcolm Gladwell
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780316478526 The prolific, best-selling Gladwell (David and Goliath; The Tipping Point) presents an intriguing analysis of what far too often goes wrong when strangers meet, diving deeply into relatively well-known controversial public incidents thoroughly covered by the mass media to cast doubt on how the general public has come to understand these events. The deceptions of Bernie Madoff, the trial of Amanda Knox, the suicide of Sylvia Plath, the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia scandal at Pennsylvania State University, and the death of Sandra Bland highlight the premise that ordinary tools and techniques used to make sense of people we don't know have failed society. The result of this failure is further conflict and misunderstanding that impact international relations and even threaten world order. Many of the examples exemplify how race, gender, age, language, country of origin, perceived threat, challenge to authority, contextual setting, and other variables can dominate impulsive behavior that shuns connections among people. VERDICT This work should stimulate further research that could serve as control for these variables and more directly link how the factor of strangeness might influence certain reactions, providing a valuable contribution to psychology and psychiatry collections in larger university libraries.—Dale Farris, Groves, TX
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780316478526 Like his New Yorker articles and previous books, Gladwell's newest is chock-full of gripping anecdotes from the recent and forgotten past, from Amanda Knox's overturned murder conviction to the double agents who sunk the CIA's spying efforts in 1980s Cuba. He uses these riveting stories to offer up bite-size observations about how we engage with strangers. For example, we think of ourselves as complex but of strangers as straightforward. Not so, Gladwell insists. The stranger is not easy; she is never as transparent as we believe. Gladwell's case studies are thrilling, but their relevance to everyday encounters is frequently obtuse, and the takeaways from them are often buried or provocative. Ultimately, Gladwell argues that it's essential to give strangers the benefit of the doubt, even in very different situations, such as when Penn State president Graham Spanier accepted reports of Jerry Sandusky's suspicious behavior with a minor as horseplay and when Texas state trooper Brian Encinia pulled Sandra Bland over after a minor traffic infraction. Readers may find that Gladwell's alluringly simple lesson dangerously oversimplifies power dynamics in twenty-first-century America.--Maggie Taft Copyright 2010 Booklist
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780316478526 In this thoughtful treatise spurred by the 2015 death of African-American academic Sandra Bland in jail after a traffic stop, New Yorker writer Gladwell (The Tipping Point) aims to figure out the strategies people use to assess strangers-to "analyze [those strategies], critique them, figure out where they came from, figure out how to fix them," in other words: to understand how to balance trust and safety. He uses a variety of examples from history and recent headlines to illustrate that people size up the motivations, emotions, and trustworthiness of those they don't know both wrongly and with misplaced confidence. He relates, for example, the story of a whole cadre of American spies in Cuba who were carefully handpicked by American intelligence operatives, all of whom turned out to be pro-Castro double agents. Gladwell writes in his signature colorful, fluid, and accessible prose, though he occasionally fails to make fully clear the connection between a seemingly tangential topic such as suicide risk and the book's main questions. In addition to providing an analysis of human mental habits and interactions, Gladwell pleas for more thoughtful ways of behaving and advocates for people to embrace trust, rather than defaulting to distrust, and not to "blame the stranger." Readers will find this both fascinating and topical. Agent: Tina Bennett, William Morris Endeavor. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. The latest intellectually stimulating book from the acclaimed author.Every few years, journalist Gladwell (David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, 2013, etc.) assembles serious scientific research on oddball yet relevant subjects and then writes a bestseller. Readers expecting another everything-you-think-you-know-is-wrong page-turner will not be disappointed, but they will also encounter some unsettling truths. The author begins with a few accounts of black Americans who died at the hands of police, using the incidents to show how most of us are incompetent at judging strangers. Countless psychological studies demonstrate that humans are terrible at detecting lying. Experts such as FBI agents don't perform better. Judges interview suspects to determine if they deserve bail; they believe it helps, but the opposite is true. Computers, using only hard data, do much better. Many people had qualms about Bernie Madoff, but interviewers found him completely open and honest; "he was a sociopath dressed up as a mensch." This, Gladwell emphasizes, is the transparency problem. We believe that someone's demeanor reflects their thoughts and emotions, but it often doesn't. Gladwell's second bombshell is what he calls "default to truth." It seems like a university president resigns in disgrace every few months for the same reason: They hear accusations of abusive behavior by an employeee.g., Larry Nassar at Michigan State, Jerry Sandusky at Penn Stateconduct an investigation, but then take no action, often claiming that they did not have enough evidence of deceit. Ultimately, everyone agrees that they were criminally negligent. Another example is CIA official James Angleton, who was convinced that there was a Soviet mole in the agency; his decades of suspicion and search ruined careers and crippled American intelligence. Gladwell emphasizes that society could not function if we did not give everyone the benefit of the doubt. "To assume the best of another is the trait that has created modern society," he writes. "Those occasions when our trusting nature is violated are tragic. But the alternativeto abandon trust as a defense against predation and deceptionis worse."Another Gladwell tour de force but perhaps his most disturbing. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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#9  (Last Week: 9 • Weeks on List: 3)  
John Adams Under Fire
 Dan Abrams and David Fisher
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#10  (Last Week: 12 • Weeks on List: 4)  
The Hope Of Glory
 Jon Meacham
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A new approach to an old Christian subject.Time contributing editor Meacham (Chair, American Presidency/Vanderbilt Univ.; The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels, 2018, etc.) is best known for his political and biographical writing. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Andrew Jackson and has written biographies of George W. Bush, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin. In this brief book, the author takes a detour to examine the last seven phrases Jesus spoke from the cross. Because those words have been the subject of endless writings over hundreds of years, readers may question the necessity of exploring them again. Meacham's answer is not to explain what the words mean but rather use them as a springboard for sermons to Episcopalian audiences on Good Friday and the origins of the Christian faith. The author claims that the words cannot be taken literally because the Bible was written centuries ago, either in Greek or in Hebrew that was translated into Greek and then translated into English. All of this can be notoriously difficult to track because the languages are so different and the meanings of words change with time. Still, Meacham approaches his subject from what he calls "Christianity's foundational beliefthat Jesus was in fact the Christ'in Greek, the anointed one'who died and rose again to redeem and restore a fallen world that is to be reborn as what John the Divine called a new heaven and a new earth.' " On Jesus' apparently forgiving his murderers, the author asks: If Jesus' crucifixion was foreordained by God, why should those who carried out God's wishes be punished? Meacham's answer: Luke included those words so that any Jew or gentile hearing them could feel exculpated from responsibility in his murder. Originally written as sermons and featuring Episcopalian imagery, this book will be most appreciated by devout Episcopalians.A middling contribution to Christian studies. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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